Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The Philadelphia Phillies came into this season with higher expectations than they have in at least a decade. The offense was supposed to be one of the best in the league. The signings of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos in the offseason, along with Bryce Harper coming off an MVP campaign all contributed to that expectation. Starting pitching was nothing crazy, but solid behind the anchors of Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand, and Corey Knebel were brought in to try and shore up a historically bad bullpen. All these moves and high expectations, and well... let's just say things have not gone exactly to plan through 35 games.
Following Sunday's loss to the Dodgers thanks to a blown 4-0 lead (another blown lead, what else is new), the Phils find themselves with a 17-18 record. Good for 2nd place in the NL East, 5.5GB the Mets. The Phils started their West Coast swing in Seattle with a 12-16 record, losers in 5 of their previous 6 games. The offense was in a funk and pitching was hardly helping most nights. The team hit bottom on April 29th, getting no-hit by the Mets. A pitiful performance. A completely unexpected display from an offense with sky-high potential. Bryce also went down with an injury in April, well kind've. Here's the story according to Jim Salisbury over at nbcsports.com
Harper has a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow, the team confirmed Thursday night. He will not throw for a month and will be treated with a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection on Sunday. The procedure will keep Harper out of the lineup when the Phils close out a series in Los Angeles on Sunday and likely Tuesday when the club returns home to host the San Diego Padres.
The good news is Bryce had said injection today and it went well. He has also found his stride on this West Coast swing and has returned to MVP form while being relegated indefinitely to DH thanks to the UCL injury.
More good news is the team seems to have found it's stride on the West Coast trip, taking 2 of 3 from Seattle and 3 of 4 from the Dodgers (both should've been sweeps). The offense scored at least 4 runs in each game, even scoring 8+ in 4 of those games. Pitching gave up an average of 4.5 runs per game on the trip. Not great, but good enough to get the job done most nights. Hoskins, Schwarber, and Harper have all appeared to have found their swing and the offense is clicking because of it. I joked I was starting a petition to move the rest of the team's games to the West Coast. We'll see if I should've when they return back home this week.
While the team is starting to play better, there is still some concerning things that need to be worked on. For one, the pitching staff has a combined 4.11ERA, 23rd worst in baseball. The bullpen has a combined 4.38ERA, 27th worst in baseball.
Something needs to be done to address this. You simply can't be a playoff team with pitching ranking that low. I hope the front office is exploring options to address this as I type.
As for the offense, much to my surprise our 172 total runs is good for 3rd in the majors and our combined .256 average is 2nd best. We have no doubt shot up the rankings thanks to our offensive production on this West Coast trip. Nonetheless it's encouraging to see our offense getting into rhythm and producing as expected. With pitching at the bottom of the league we are going to need all the runs we can score. This was seemingly the front office's plan in the offseason when they focused mainly on acquiring top end bats instead of pitching. They just accepted that we were going to give up a shit ton of runs, so they decided to just try and score a shit ton more instead. Worked to perfection in those 9-7 and 12-10 wins over LA.
I'm not even going to mention the defense. Brings up too many painful memories from earlier in the season. I will just say it's been improving as of late and that's a step in the right direction. Overall we are just over 20% of the way through the 2022 season. Things started off choppy, but appear to be picking up. With a long way to go yet, the Phils will have plenty of opportunities to steer the ship a bit more straight and catch the division leading Mets. I'm hopeful we will start winning more nights than not, but as always with this team I remain cautiously optimistic. I fear we may be looking at another season of hovering around .500 and missing out on the playoffs yet again. Only time will tell. I'll revisit this in due time.